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My Paper on Natural Kinds (Aust. J Phil 2016)

Here's my paper on natural kind terms - which combines philosophy of language and metaphysics (essentialism). I defend a Kripkean/Putnamian account of how 'water', 'tiger' etc. function, against the criticism (from Nathan Salmon, Helen Steward, and others) that such accounts presuppose something exotically 'metaphysical'.

I actually think it's one of my better papers...and has the added bonus of a reference to Winnie the Pooh and an analogy involving mysterious boxes and a magician. (Australasian J Phil 2016.

Go here.


Fil Salustri said…
The link you included seemed messed up. I think you meant - right?
Stephen Law said…
Thanks faithlessgod - link now fixed.
Philip Rand said…
I re-read my explicit formulation of Putnam’s “Meaning and Reference”. It reveals something most interesting.

Your paper uses “determinability” to side-step the exotic metaphysical accusations.

On close examination of my explicit formulation of the twin-earth thought experiment it becomes obvious that the thought model hinges on a “principle of limitation” and not a “principle of determinability”; because the explicit formulation is stating that “water” has a limited potency of being “water” on earth (only H2O) and on twin-earth (only XYZ). So, what becomes clear is that the thought model is using two ideas: a principle of limitation and numerical differentiation of “form”.

Putnam can get away with this principle of limitation because he has restricted the form of “water” to only earth and twin-earth, so it is de-limited. This is why he can make claims concerning “water” with different values, i.e. H2O and XYZ.

Now, his thought model is sort of looking Platonic (but it isn’t), this is where some philosophers will fall into a trap…

Because now the thought model is not of change (H2O or XYZ, i.e. determinability) but of intelligibility, i.e. the criterion of water is the “form” of water taken by itself on earth and on twin-earth, not the composite. So, “water” acts as a restrictive, existential limit; it is non-formal, hence non-intelligible.

Now, I see where Putnam is going with “Why There Isn't a Ready-Made World”; what the twin-earth thought experiment expresses is the source of instability of nature, of defect (again a Platonic concept, but not how Putnam is using defect). He uses “water” as a particular physical case of the non-formal, “individuality”, i.e. the concrete; the use of the earth and twin-earth limits the “actuality-of-water-form” to a particular career on earth and twin-earth.

This means that “water is H2O” and “water is XYZ” cannot be specified except in terms of limitation.

Each earth and twin-earth “water” is undifferentiated capacity for limiting; but each differs totally since they individuate H2O and XYZ; totally different as individuals from one another.

By using a principle of limitation to “water” rather than a principle of determinability to “water” no paradox is set up.

In the thought model “water” acts as a general function of two different composites (i.e. H2O, XYZ) being the same. On earth and twin-earth “water” is unqualified in its ability to limit the “form” of “water”; each is free of intelligibility on its own part. The fact that earth “water” and twin-earth “water” are numerically different does not affect this, since differentiation (as Putnam shows) is ultimately outside the order of intelligibility.

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